Defender Frédéric Brillant was acquired by D.C. United on Dec. 10, 2017, from New York City FC in exchange for $75,000 of General Allocation Money and a 2018 international slot. After two MLS seasons with NYCFC, the Frenchman signed a two-year contract to play as a central defender on the Black-and-Red’s backline.
Brillant came into the fold right away for United, starting and playing all 90 minutes in each of the team’s first 12 games. He became a mainstay in central defense alongside Steven Birnbaum as the Black-and-Red shored up their efforts to allow ten fewer goals than they did in 2017.
In front of home supporters for the first time, the defender delivered the headed assist on Luciano Acosta’s 97th minute game-tying goal in the 2-2 draw against the Houston Dynamo at the Maryland SoccerPlex on March 17. Brillant's quick thinking in the dying moments of the match helped the team pick up their first point of the 2018 season.
Brillant got on the scoresheet for the second time of the year in United’s final match of the season, opening the scoring in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round against the Columbus Crew on November 1. In a wild sequence, the defender got his first goal for the Black-and-Red in the 21st minute when he dove to head in a loose ball in front of goal to take a 1-0 lead.
Standing at 6’3, the Sedan, France, native was the tallest field player for the club, making him an offensive threat on set pieces as well as a reliable aerial defender to clear danger away from goal. Brillant was a team leader in a number of defensive categories, including first in blocks with 35, second in clearances with 156, and second in aerials won with 73. Second to only Wayne Rooney, Brillant had a stellar 92% passing accuracy mark in his own half in his 678 passes.
The surging defense was crucial in the run United went on after the opening of Audi Field in July. The Black-and-Red gave up just 15 goals in 15 home matches during their resurgence on the way to qualifying for the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Brillant, Birnbaum, and goalkeeper Bill Hamid helped keep four clean sheets at home.
Brillant also proved to be an important piece of a resilient United defensive unit that worked through a series of injuries. Head coach Ben Olsen used Brillant as a defensive sub in August when Kofi Opare was inserted into the lineup after returning to health. As the Black-and-Red dealt with injuries to defenders including Taylor Kemp, Nick DeLeon, and Oniel Fisher, Brillant remained available for selection. Coming back into the lineup for the final stretch of the year, Brillant played all 90 minutes in the final seven matches, and the Frenchman's strong play at the end of the year helped United concede just five goals from September 16 until October 28.
Under contract for the 2019 season, Brillant will once again figure into the defensive scheme for United’s first full season in their new home at Audi Field. The Black-and-Red backline will look to set the tone early to pick up important results that can push them back into the playoffs for the second consecutive year.